Military History is of course, rich with ghost stories, as unsurprisingly war tends to be fairly fatal for those who participate in it. One of my mother’s earliest machinations against my sleep being sound and my sheets being dry in the morning was to purchase a cassette-tape (Back when those were a thing) of several people, all of whom had tied in the “most-piddle inducing” section at the haunted narration contest, narrating excerpts from Mark Nesbitt’s The Ghost of Gettysburg. Nesbitt’s tales of Gettysburg paranormal have been keeping me up with the lights on since I was 7, and for several years convinced me to never look out my window after 8 p.m., lest I see the Blue Boy of Gettysburg, an orphan who froze to death hiding on a window-ledge in winter and who now appears outside the second floor of a Gettysburg dormitory and knocks at the windows before shoving his ice-blue face into the pane. I discovered in doing further research that somebody has made this into a Christmas Ornament. As to what kind of perverse person would by that, I have no idea. If any of my family is reading this, incidentally, I’ve now finished my Christmas shopping.
But I have a few favorite war related ghost stories, that I heard throughout my childhood:
1. The Ghost Battle of Marathon: A story that the ghosts of the Greeks and Persians fought the battle on the plains of Marathon on the anniversary of the battle. A further caveat warned that anyone who observed this battle was cursed to die within the year.
2. The Ghost Battle of Edgehill: Stories of apparitions refighting the battle were so numerous, that veterans who were sent to investigate returned to King Charles I with stories that they had seen friends who had died at Edgehill.
3. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow: Washington Irving’s classic story.
5. The Ghost rider of Devil’s Den: Another Gettysburg Ghost story in one of the creepiest spots on the battlefield, the narrator on the Haunted Gettysburg tapes told the story of a lonely apparition riding through the valley between the Devil’s Den and Little Round Top. Without a head. I was in therapy by the time I was 8.
6. Ghosts of the Sabers and Roses Ball: A bit of a personal one for me. Landon House in Urbana, Maryland, built in the late 18th century, hosted a ball by Gen. JEB Stuart’s cavalry officers during a jaunt into Maryland. Multiple sightings and balls of light have been seen about the house, especially in the slave quarters in the basement. I stayed over in the house on two occasions, and neither time did anything exciting happen, though a bathroom light did turn on by its own accord. WOOOOOO!
There are so many good ghost stories; these are just a few that I can remember. The fact is that most of them are from my childhood, which means they have lodged themselves in my brain for many, many years. The tragedy of war is in some ways upheld by the enduring popularity of these stories, as they bemoan the loss and the sorrows of war’s cruelties. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, conflict and its effects on communities, countrysides, and people remain, long after the fighting is over. Deep wounds and deep hurt, which paranormal enthusiasts claim is often responsible for the strange and supernatural, certainly leaves ghosts of its own. They fade somewhat harder.
May the Circle be Unbroken. Happy Halloween.
If you’re ever in Gettysburg after dark, the good people at http://www.ghostsofgettysburg.com//about.htm can make it one of the most disturbing nights you’ve had in a while.
If you’re in for a bit of then/now with ghostly images: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2219584/Ghosts-war-Artist-superimposes-World-War-II-photographs-modern-pictures-street-scenes.html
Got any good historical ghost stories? Why not leave a comment? I personally can’t wait to traumatize my own offspring.